Meaningful conversations are the foundations of strong relationships. Engaging in a meaningful conversations does not always come naturally, especially for children and adolescents who are still working to build this skill. Here are some tips to help you have interesting discussions with your mentee. Modeling meaning conversation will help your mentee learn how to listen and ask the right questions during future discussions with peers and adults.
- Keep it going. It’s one thing to ask a question and then sit back to wait for an answer. It is another thing to really engage in a conversation. Asking follow-up questions or providing open-ended responses are great ways to keep the conversation going. The idea is not to debate an answer but to learn more. Try some of these:
“That’s cool. Tell me more.”
“You’ve really thought about this, haven’t you.”
“Are you saying…”
“Interesting. Have you thought about…”
- Conversation doesn’t have to be heavy. It is important to have conversations about subjects that matter deeply, such as who are the most influential people in a young person’s life,. It is also important to listen to why a young person likes a certain fad, music star, or TV program. All conversations are meaningful when two people are truly engaged and interested in one another’s questions and answers.
- Be prepared for the unexpected answer. You may ask a question and get an answer you did not want or expect. If an answer bothers you, simply listen and ask more questions about why the young person thinks and feels that way. Suspend your own judgment and let young people express their ideas and opinion.
- Listening is most important. Conversations with kids are better when we “elders” practice the art of listening. Through careful listening we tell them we care about their thoughts – and we care about them.
- Timing can be everything. If you ask a question that is met with silence or “the look,” maybe this isn’t the best time for a conversation. Or it could be that the specific questions triggers a bigger issue for him or he needs some time to process it. Taking a rain check on a question is okay.
- Be prepared to give your own answer. You are focusing on the young person, but she may also want to turn the question in your direction. This is a great change to model thoughtful, honest responses.
From Mentoring for Meaningful Results: Asset-Building Tips, Tools, and Activities for Youth and Adults. Copyright (C) 2006 by Search Institute; 800-888-7828; www.search-institute.org